3rd of Desnus, 4715 (continued)
We rub a potion all over the old woman’s exposed skin. The mud that covered her transfers to our hands in the process. As we continue to rub, a black miasma leaks from her eyes and mouth to form a small cloud around her. The cloud is not noxious, and slowly dissipates.
We keep the fire going near the hut, and lay her in her bed. The hut is quite small, mostly filled with drying wood.
With the mud mostly removed, it’s odd to see that the woman is not actually that old. She has a silver scrunch in the form of a clenched fist in her hair. She’s also got 5 silver rings, denoting a series of accomplishments in her life; unfortunately Tira can’t quite figure out what each of the rings (or the scrunch) mean.
Tova calls upon the dwarven gods with a short prayer and lays her hand upon the old woman’s throat. A golden aura infuses her body and she awakens, confused and waylaid. Tira recognizes the accent as from Janderhoff, a sky citadel to the west of Koldukar on the other side of the Mindspin mountains.
She calls herself Ingrahild of the Harrowtrack clan. She was attacked by some kind of fish-giant (a marsh or swamp giant perhaps) that backhanded her so hard that it knocked the marbles out of her head. There were orc witches there too. She was fighting them, but does not know what happened to the rest of her party. She travelled here as a part of a pathfinder party (with 3 dwarves and 2 humans).
She can lead us to the dwarven graveyard that she and her group found. She gets up using her dwarven great axe as a walking stick. She leads us along the river until it bends back to the west. Occasionally the river over-floods, so as necessary, we trudge through into the woods, other times we’re in the muck. After the bend in the river, she starts hacking through the woods. We help clear the path through the thick swamp. Every so often there’s a clearing that’s thankfully dry. It gives us a chance to take our bearings. We try to keep to the north-east bearing that she’s aiming for, but we’re less successful than we’d like and have to correct our path often.
We come into a larger opening filled with mounds of moss, scattered across the clearing. The mounds, on closer inspection, seem to be very small cairns. The clearing is only 80 or so paces across, but it is by far the largest clearing we have yet encountered since the hut.
Pulling at the moss at one of the small cairns, Tova realizes that beneath the moss is a stone skull. The bodies are not interred, instead the bones are mixed in among the rocks of the cairn. It seems to have been a hasty burial. There’s no sign of the area being sanctified or ritualized. It may have been defiled or maybe the markers lay among the rocks, beneath the moss.
At a glance, there’s a score of little mounds that are most likely more of these little cairns. But there are also dwarven bones found between the cairns. Rocks are a rarity in the marsh; maybe the rocks were pulled up from the road?
We find bits of rusted metal, a few pieces of rusted chain. Anything wooden or organic is long since turned to dust. Going through the boulders, we look for markings, anything to identify the history or time of this place. Tova picks up a bolder and notices the shape of it. It looks like a clenched fist. It’s about twice the size of a dwarf’s fist, yet proper. We find a similarly carved foot. Another is head-shaped, but with holes for eyes.
We try to assemble some of the pieces. It’s easier to do it with the bones. While it’s hard to get a full skeleton, we manage. The combination looks like a broken earth kin. With this in mind, some of the mounds don’t seem to be as broken as this one. The humanoid shapes of rock are less in number than the dwarven remains.
Tova spots a glint in the moonlight. I start talking to the glint in Terran. It moves and comes towards us, at first echoing what I say. It rises up behind me and acknowledges Ashbera (the face of my armour). It is joined by others. One of them says “The earth honors those who sacrifice for the earth. There are many sacrifices here.”
Eventually there are 1/2 a dozen earth kin rise out of the ground. One name himself Menhir. The earth kin give each of us a heart of stone from one of the fallen. Their tale implies this is where the dead fell, and so this is where the survivors tried to bury the fallen. The survivors stayed to protect the fallen, but they have remained dormant for a long time, conversation is difficult and stilted. I explain it as best we can to Ingral, Tira and Shamus help fill in the gaps with information we’ve garnered from the Remembrance. I ask Menhir to take us to “the special place” as he calls it, the entrance to the Remembrance.
Menhir takes us through a 1/2 dozen clearings, muck, and more dense marsh. At last we see the silhouette of five upright trilithons (each 8’ tall; with a lintel atop, making each pair 10’). They stand in a rough circle with three toppled trilithons. At the centre of the circle is a 12’ tall upright stone. As we draw closer, the amount of mist grows along the ground, the air grows warmer and there’s a slight sulphurous smell to the air.
Menhir gestures and says “the right place.” While I detect no evil in the place, there is a strong aura of abjuration and conjuration around the stones according to Shamus.
After making sure it’s mostly safe, we start examining the trilothons s. The first is mostly buried in the muck, the second has very few markings.
After spotting something moving in the brush, a rock is thrown at Tova! It takes a bit, but Ingral recognizes the marsh giant as being akin to what she faced previously. The giant enters the fray with a mighty gaff-hook, picked up from the rubble in the overgrowth. Her right hand is covered by a black miasma that she uses as wickedly as the gaff-hook against us. Menhir joins us against the marsh-giant, and the battle is won, but slowly.
In the end, the mash giant flees, injured and unarmed. We chase it into the water, but it descends to a depth below our vision and disappears. Beauite tries to follow, but gets knocked out of the water by the retreating beast. We spend some time tending to the poor cliff-jumper’s wounds.
We go back to clearing the moss from the standing stones. Beneath the living carpet, there’s not a lot of markings: a few diamonds, others more fanciful, most organized in fancy patterns. They might be the anchoring point (abjuration) on the trilithons. Before I can clear the moss off the centre stone, Menhir stops me. “The earth remembers.”
Shamus touches the centre stone. There’s a rumble and all the stones start to move. The trililothon starts to collapse, falling forward. We try to scatter out of the way, but the stone clips Ingral, Tova, Sif, and Shamus.
After some time tending wounds, Shamus makes the realization that we must have triggered a trap around the central stone. He’s pretty sure it works the same as the standing stones in Trunau, by using a crystal to open it. He might be able to brute-force the way open, but almost any attempt to touch the centre stone could trigger the trap again.
As Tova and I calmly discuss a method to open the way without triggering the trap again, Shamus just plunges a crystal into the centre stone. The moss of the stone falls away and the surface ripples. We pass through the stone and arrive in the Remembrance. The noise fades away. It’s a serene, quiet, well-lit environment. The crystals are glowing with their own inner light. Ingral is slack-jawed at the place.
Menhir is slowly becoming more dwarvish; he remembers this place.
When asked about the pillars other than the ones we’ve come through, he says they lead to the second world. We are forced to assume that the second world is our world. When asked about the door, he says it leads to the life of earth. The concordance of the four elements. We don’t understand what he’s trying to say; but agree we shouldn’t enter just yet.
Shamus opens a crystal and we watch an earth-kin speak in an oddly disjointed terran. He speaks of a war unending between the elements. The covenant stopped the war and the Remembrance formed for the children to come, learn, and teach the earth (possibly the next generation – a way to remember).
The second crystal contains an earth kin that speaks breathlessly. He is the first of the earth’s children; the first of the stone singers. He goes through the motions of the crystal memory spell. If learned, it teaches someone with the ability to record a crystal memory.
The third crystal contains the memory of a dignified dwarven woman with an elaborate quaff. Ashbara aban-Calmathal, keeper of the Remembrance. She explains that the old ones, the Mouhal (Dwarven pantheon), have made the covenant known to them. When the earth shakes, they must climb and take our place in the sky. The Mouhal who has taken the name of Toragath, will guide them. Abd the Talakular came with them. This is the story of our exodus and the quest for sky. It is a first telling. Agrit would kill to hear this!
The fourth crystal memory is a burly dwarven warrior in stone armour. Althskjald StoneStong (the adviser of the first King Targig of Mythrilheart) claims to be the first to reach the surface. The dwarves of the Tar-Tagoth accompanied him. As a member of the Stone Song, he offers honours to the earth. He seeks a place to bring about the resonance of this space. We believe he was choosing this entry into the Remembrance.
The fifth crystal memory contains the image of a bruised and bloodied woman. She tells us that the peace is broken, the legion is shattered, and the orcs have overrun the land. The council may not be able to hold the circle. But, she is determined that the dwarves will return. For the heart of the earth is timeless. The memory was recorded during the fall of Koldukar.
We examine several more crystal memories; most were made in this room. The information they impart is quite basic; geology and stone singer information, martial techniques, earth creatures and how to deal with them, simple spells, and the like.
Tora finds a series of common stone singer ritual in the crystal memories. Some speak of a baptism by crystal. It seems that by impaling younger dwarves with crystal, some in the heart they survive and are drawn deeper into this mystery cult. The initiation rites seem to differ based on the individual proclivities.
There are also references to the double-set of doors. In an initiation ritual memory, this room is defined as the initiation chamber. As you go deeper there are more mysteries to learn. Some of the challenges, revelations, and mysteries to be discovered are profound. The room beyond is called the Chamber of Life. Beyond that is the Council Chamber.
After much discussion, we all agree. Tova leads us in a prayer to Torag. The earth remembers. We go through the doors.
The room beyond has a crystal bridge running its length. There is a high dome over the entire chamber. Off the side of the bridge is a verdant fungus covered carpet some 80’ below the bridge; covered in a mist that almost hides the depth from view. It is incredibly warm here. There are doors leading from north-and south below, and a double-door across the bridge.
When sensing evil, I detect two sources about midway across the bridge. Something else seems to have popped into my range on either side of this door. I warn everyone and Shamus breaks out the crystal dust and sends it out into the space on ether side of the door. The dust lends more light to the chamber.
The lights glow suddenly too bright. I start shaking my head, but whatever it was – it passes quickly. Shamus and Tora didn’t see or hear any spell casting but figure I suffered some kind of magical attack.
Shamus complains of the briefly overly-bright lights, but it fades quickly from his vision. He tells us that something or someone is trying to blind us. Tova is attacked next. Then Ingral.
We are attacked again and again the attacker moves past us, remaining unseen. This time it’s hollow sounds of children whispering. Shamus steps up and casts flurry of snowballs on the two beings I identify from the aura of their evil, where they stand on the bridge.
Shamus’ mage armour seems to have blocked two attacks. He heard the crunching of the snow under feet, but saw nothing. And so it begins. We try to fend off the unseen attackers, and I do my best to call out their location, but keeping sight of them takes everything I have. My compatriots do their best, but miss more often than they hit. Eventually, Tira moves forward and starts singing; her voice bringing forth the spectral legionnaires. Unfortunately, the spectral legionnaires are just as unlucky at hitting our unseen opponents as we are.
Shamus brings forth a swarm of bats, they seek out one of the unseen attackers and swarm around it. This doesn’t quite outline the attacker, but it does give everyone something to shoot at. The bats take a lot of damage, but the party does seem to damage at least one of the creatures thanks to the bats.